Last season was something of a vintage campaign for Galatasaray. An impressive domestic double, which included a 20th league title, saw them become the first club in Turkey to add a fourth star to their badge, while a third consecutive berth in the UEFA Champions League further strengthened its credentials as one of Europe’s elite clubs.
Fast-forward to last week and that success may well feel like a distant memory for the club’s passionate fan.
A failure to meet UEFA regulations regarding financial losses means the Istanbul Lions will spend at least one season away from any European competition over the next two years, compounding the misery of what’s already been a difficult season.
A disappointing exit from Europe and a below-par title defence has already cost coach Mustafa Denizli his job after just three months at the helm.
Eliminating the possibility of European football could be considered a fatal blow for many onlookers, particularly given the lucrative financial benefits that come with Champions League qualification.
And yet recent success has done little to prevent the club to operating an ultimately unsustainable financial model in recent years.
The last three seasons of Champions League football saw the club reportedly accumulate losses of €38, €74 and €100 million losses respectively, and chairman Dursun Özbek, believes this latest unwelcome episode is the culmination of as much as 15 years of financial mismanagement.
The beginning of February saw Özbek outline plans the club hope will reduce overall losses to just €10 million, although securing the club’s long-term future will come at a price.
He told Turkish TV channel NTV that while the club would be looking at new sponsorship opportunities, cutting jobs would be a central part of its new financial strategy.
“We are planning measures outside the pitch; we have to stop the club from posting even bigger losses and are determined to put things back in order before it’s too late,” he said.
While the likes of Wesley Sneijder have already pledged their future to the club, player departures are ultimately inevitable, although given the poor performances of some players that could in itself be a welcome alteration for some fans.
There is obviously a risk that culling an already below-par squad may further damage Galatasaray’s competitive edge, but slipping into obscurity still looks unlikely.
Firstly, Galatasaray remains the biggest name in Turkish football in terms of stature and financial revenue, with the club 21st in Deloitte’s latest footballing rich list, boasting revenues of just over €159 million.
Granted an absence from the Champions League will have a detrimental effect on that figure, but the club’s significant commercial potential is undoubted – a powerful asset in the modern era.
Not only that, but the playing field may well be levelled soon, with Galatasaray’s struggles representing a wider underlying issue of financial indiscipline within the Turkish game, which has previously accepted a culture of debt among many of its biggest teams.
Fenerbahce and Besiktas both recently revealed net losses of €56 and €43 million respectively for the latest financial year, prompting subsequent warnings from UEFA that will surely now carry greater clout.
Much needed shot in the arm
Turkish Clubs’ Association head Göksel Gümüşdağ has already called for new funding mechanisms aided by private and state-run lenders in order to address the issue, while some have even called on the government to step in.
As a result, Galatasaray’s ban from Europe may actually be a much needed shot in the arm for everyone. If the club can solve its own crisis, it may offer a valuable lead for everyone else.
Written by Tom Coleman
Follow Tom on Twitter @tomEcoleman
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